Cancellation of pro-Palestinian lecture sparks plenty of debate

A University of Regina lecture series has sparked controversy and accusations of censorship
Cigdem Iltan

The University of Regina was buzzing this month with talk of academic muzzling off-campus. Emily Eaton, an assistant professor of geography, was a week away from presenting “Solidarity with Palestine: The Case for Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions Against Israel,” the second of 12 lunchtime talks scheduled over the summer in Regina’s Victoria Park, when she says the coordinator of the series told her the topic was under scrutiny and asked to know more about it. The lecture series, titled “Profs in the Park,” was to be produced in partnership with the Regina Downtown Business Improvement District (RDBID).

The next day, she says, the university told her the RDBID had cancelled her event. “This is a clear case of a city-level administration stepping in and saying what its citizens should and shouldn’t be able to hear, and therefore defining the terrain of public debate,” says Eaton. All the professors scheduled to present—on everything from “Gardening with Native Plants” to “Current Trends in Policing”—withdrew from the series. “The profs and the dean collectively decided we’d rather pull all the presentations than be subject to censorship,” says Eaton. (The lecture series has since taken on a new name, “Profs in the City,” and has been relocated to a private space: Neutral Ground Contemporary Art Forum. Eaton presented her lecture to a packed house on June 14.)

Judith Veresuk, executive director of the RDBID, says her organization isn’t to blame for pulling the plug on the original series. She claims that RDBID contacted the university to clarify the content of the talk after the city and her organization received complaints about its subject matter. And instead of providing more info, says Veresuk, the university pulled the lecture. “The next thing I know,” she says, “the university is crying censorship and cancelled the series.”